Dutch Harbor, Alaska Sunday, April 24, 2016
We arrived in Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Saturday, and the mood on the boat was noticeably cheerful – not sure if folks were glad to be back in the USA (using familiar currency and language), or glad to be on land after 3 days at sea (we had two Thursdays, because we crossed the international date line), or glad to be on the last leg of this long cruise, with only 2 weeks left to go.
In any event, hundreds of us poured off the boat to see the town, which is where the “Deadliest Catch” TV show is filmed. We expected a kind of “Northern Exposure” town (remember that old TV show?) but it was a little different. About 4000 people live in Dutch Harbor. This is a major fishing port, and has been the #1 commercial fishing port in the USA for 19 years. There is also an international airport here, which gets a lot of action because so much travel in this part of the world is by large or small plane. Apart from the port and the airport, there are 2 nice museums, some businesses, and some eating/drinking places, spread out over a few miles on a few roads (no town center, per se).
We visited the Museum of the Aleutians, and learned a bit about the history of the Aleutian Islands and the Aleuts, including its Russian history, its role in WWII (the only place in the USA bombed besides Pearl Harbor, and location for 9000 troops during the war), the fishing/whaling/sealing that has sustained people in this area for thousands of years, and how people have survived in this harsh environment over time. Although it was a little strange not to find any temples or Buddhas, this is still a very exotic part of the US with a history unlike so many other states.
This area hosts a lot of outdoor activity in the warmer months, and is home to many parks where you can enjoy birdwatching, hiking, biking, golf and other fun.
There’s a lovely Russian Orthodox church in Dutch Harbor as well as the Cathedral of the Holy Ascension; for one week each month a priest comes by plane to the Cathedral to attend to the spiritual needs of the parish. Similar visits by plane are made by medical professionals and others who care for people in remote areas. The local middle-high school has under 100 students in total (that’s about 12 per class).
Our day started out sunny, and passengers from the ship got out in the early morning and walked to some of the local attractions (1-2 miles). Within about 3 hours from our arrival in Dutch Harbor, clouds formed and a brisk wind swept in. Passengers started coming back to the ship, well in advance of the 4:30 pm deadline for reboarding. By noon a nice sleety rain had started, and it was COLD out. The ship was able to leave port ahead of schedule because nobody was outdoors by mid-afternoon. And I think you probably heard a low buzzing noise in the lower 48 states by 5pm, since it appeared that almost all passengers were snoozing before dinner (not me, however!).
So while we sometimes lament the density of where we live, we can also be thankful that it’s not too remote and hard to reach.
Best to all,
PS – Internet coverage for the next few days is supposed to be sketchy, so you may not hear from Joe or me during this time.